By IRC Round Robin
Submitted November 1998
Summary: What should have been a regular journalistic outing for Lois and Clark at a LexCorp lawsuit, leads to them finding out about their former nemesis. In order to get to the bottom of things, the couple travels to a remote island — with Jimmy and Dr. Klein in tow.
An IRC Round Robin by Misha <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Eraygun <Eraygun@aol.com>; chrispat <email@example.com>; AlienDove <AlienDove@juno.com>; zoomway <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Lansbury <Lansbury1@aol.com>; Mackteach <Mackteach@aol.com>
Part One : LEXposed
The courtroom was just on the uncomfortable side of cool. Pressed up against Clark on the hard, wooden benches, only Lois' arm and the side of her thigh resembled anything approaching warm. She suppressed the incipient shudder and tried to concentrate on the lawyer droning on in front of them.
Despite the mass of people crowded into the high-ceilinged room, it was dully quiet. Occasional whispers and the scratch of pens on paper broke the monotone as the lawyer for LexCorp listed the assets of Metropolis Power and Light.
Lois fought to keep her eyes open as the list of transformers, service vans, and electric cable grew longer and longer. Her eyelids drooped, then snapped open.
"Clark?" she whispered.
Clark reached his arm around her and dropped his lips to her ear. "Yes, honey?"
His warmth surrounded her, and she couldn't hold off the shiver any longer.
"How much longer before they get to the Daily Planet?"
Clark took a quick glance around, lowered his glasses, and eyed the stack of files by the lawyer's elbow. "It's the one after this, honey."
"Oh, good, I…" Lois suppressed a yawn only half-successfully. "…I can't wait to get out of here and find something interesting to write about."
Clark squeezed her once, but paused before he could respond.
Someone just outside the courtroom was arguing loudly…
"Step aside, young man! You don't know who you're dealing with here!"
"What is it?" Lois followed Clark's gaze to the closed doors. "Is something…"
The doors shook with a dull boom, and the lawyer paused. In the silence, both doors swung silently open, and the entire courtroom swiveled to watch. A diminutive woman stood framed by the giant doors.
Her hair was the same silvery sheen as the pearls around her neck, and the knob of her cane. Her pale skin was aged parchment, worn and wrinkled by time. The ebony of her eyes shone like the empty center of a flickering candle flame.
Her black silk pantsuit rustled as she stepped over the unconscious uniformed body in the doorway.
"Ah. Judge Emerson." A flicker of a smile crossed her face. "Just the man with whom I wished to speak."
She pointed with the end of her ebony cane, and the entire courtroom swiveled to face the judge.
Judge Emerson's face had paled, and an uneasy fear lurked in his eyes. "Remove this disturbance from my courtroom!"
"Emerson!" A bailiff stepped up beside her, and placed his hand on her arm. She slammed the point of her cane onto his foot. "You will regret crossing me!" She brandished a photo in front of her. "I will not allow you to parcel out my holdings as if this were a back country auction!"
Another pair of uniformed men stepped up beside her, grabbing her forearms. She struggled briefly, dropping the photo in the process. Her back went rigid, and she turned with them, finally allowing herself to be escorted from the courtroom.
"Who was that?" Clark mused as the courtroom erupted in similar speculation.
Lois crouched by the photograph and her face paled. "Lex?"
"What are you talking about honey?" Clark asked as Lois picked up the photograph and slowly rose from her stooped position.
"Clark, she has a picture of Lex, but there's something odd about it. Take a look for yourself."
Lois handed the faded photograph to Clark. The man in the foreground certainly looked like Lex, but the suit he was wearing, while extremely well made, seemed curiously out of fashion. His hair was slicked back in a style that reminded Clark of the gangster movies of the 30s.
Standing next to Lex was a petite dark-haired young woman. She was elegantly dressed as well in what was probably the height of fashion for the late 1920's and she was carrying a bouquet of orchids. White orchids.
Clark whistled softly. "The resemblance is uncanny. It sure looks…like Lex."
"No, it doesn't just look like Lex, it is Lex. I'm sure of it," Lois said with conviction.
"But, honey, that's …"
"I'm not sure anything is impossible as far as Lex is concerned."
Clark raised his eyebrows. "You're serious, aren't you? But how could that be Lex? This picture is obviously very old."
Lois grabbed his arm and started pulling him toward the door. "That's just what you and I are going to find out. And here I was complaining about boredom."
Clark grinned and let himself be towed out of the courtroom.
They were just in time to see the mysterious woman being escorted out of the front entrance of the courthouse, where she entered a white limo that had been waiting at the curb. Lois ran down the steps, but before she could reach the limo, it pulled away.
"Damn," Lois muttered. "Clark, you're going to have to follow and see where she goes."
"Yes, you." She made that familiar hand signal. "Hurry."
Clark sighed, but knew better than to argue with Lois when she was on the trail of a hot story. He ducked into an alley and took off to follow the limo to its destination.
Clark flew over the limo, but far enough behind it so as not to be seen. He was surprised to note that they seemed to be headed in the direction of the Hobs River Bay area. He watched the car turn in to a narrow alleyway and began to think Lois was right. This was getting intriguing.
Meanwhile, back at the Planet, Lois was frantically searching for Jimmy. Where was that kid when you needed research done?
"Lois! What's up? Aren't you supposed to be at the courthouse?" Jimmy came capering around the corner,
"Yeah, but Clark and I got bored. I don't have time to explain my suspicions completely, but I think we may be onto something about Lex."
"Geez, Lois, there's _more_ to that guy? He's dead, for God's sake!"
"Would you see if you can find out anything about the woman in this picture? I think she may be the key."
Jimmy took the photo from Lois and gave it a once-over. Then he did a double take. "Wow, Lois, where'd you get this? It's ancient! Wait a second…you don't think this is…?" Jimmy looked at her incredulously.
"That's exactly what I think. Don't look at me like I'm crazy Jimmy, just give it a shot, ok? I'm not sure what to make of this just yet either, but that's why I need to know about that woman in the picture."
Jimmy forced a serious expression onto his face and nodded. Lois turned back to her desk as Jimmy scampered off.
Just as she sat down, there was a slight breeze in the newsroom and she glanced about expectantly, searching for Clark and wondering what he had found out on his excursion
Lois caught Clark's eye across the room. He walked casually over to her desk and pulled up a chair.
Lois stared at him. "Well? Where'd they go? What'd you find out?"
Clark leaned against the desk. "A place called Santos Ltd., and from I could see it was *very* limited. Nothing but a glorified storage facility not far from Suicide Slum."
"Hmmmm…" Lois tapped a pencil against her cheek. "That gets close to the old Metro Toaster interest."
Clark nodded. "Toni Taylor was very interested in the property—"
"And you," Lois observed dryly.
"Still jealous?" He smiled and bent down inches from her face.
Lois drew the pencil eraser down his jaw. "No. I prefer 'territorial'."
"Ooh," he cooed. "You're sexy when you're splitting hairs."
"Back to business," Lois said against his lips, and then pulled away quickly.
Clark sighed loudly. "Okay. As far 'business' goes, that property Toni wanted—"
"Went to Lex."
"Right," he agreed. "And Santos Ltd. was and is the only piece of real estate that didn't find its way into Lex's holdings, and because it didn't—"
"Development was impossible," Lois said, and her gaze became distant. "That really bugged Lex. He ranted about it to me once."
Clark shifted uncomfortably.
Lois' gaze softened and she rubbed his arm. "Still a little painful when I talk about Lex?"
Clark shrugged. "Only when you sound like a couple. On the other hand," Clark brightened and touched her cheek, "when you talk about how much you despise him, I'd like to record every word and sort of make a 'greatest hits' collection out of it."
"Well," Lois smiled crookedly, "I can record selected songs," she said and thought a moment. "How about 'I'll be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal You'."
Clark tried not to laugh, but failed. "Honey, I'll settle for him not coming back from his latest death."
"Who's coming back?" Jimmy asked, causing them both to turn.
"No one, Jimmy."
"He'd better not," muttered Lois.
"Nothing, Jimmy. What did you find?"
Jimmy placed two photos in front of them. One was the aged print Lois had rescued from the courtroom, and the other was an identical print, fresh from the darkroom.
"It's a file photo from 1929. That's Gloria Santos and her fiance — get this — Alexander Luthor. It's um…" Jimmy flipped over the fresh photo. "…the opening night of Richard the Third at the old theater on 42nd street."
"*Alexander* Luthor?" Lois' exclamation was echoed a half a breath later by Clark.
"Yep- musta been Lex's grandfather or something." Jimmy shrugged. "Anyway, Gloria married Luthor like the week after this was taken. She died in a plane crash a year later. That's everything I've found so far."
"Thanks Jimmy." Lois' eyes focused on a point a few feet beyond him.
"Keep digging, Jimmy." Clark handed the newer photo back. "I've got a feeling that this isn't the end of it."
Clark looked at Lois. "By that look on your face you must be coming to some really distasteful conclusions." Clark's words brought Lois back from her momentary lapse.
"Clark, I need to talk to that woman from the courtroom. We have to try and find her."
Clark turned to see Lois heading for the ramp. "Lois, where are you going?" Clark was at her side by the time she made her way to the elevator.
Lois and Clark stood back as the door of the elevator opened and they both visibly cringed as Ralph's brooding face came into focus.
"Hey, you two. Where you going? You won't believe what just happened to me."
Lois looked at Clark. "Ralph, we really don't have time, maybe later you can tell us about it." Lois grabbed Clark's coat sleeve and began to pull him into the elevator.
"Fine, don't listen. I'll have to use my own sources to find Superman."
Clark stopped the elevator door from closing with his right foot. "Why do you need Superman?"
"That's okay, you two go on. I'll get Superman myself."
They could see that Ralph was now going to be coy about telling them why he needed Superman.
Lois was the first to speak. "Come on in and tell us why you need Superman as we go down to the lobby."
"You aren't going to get me in that lobby until Security has that crazy ole' broad dressed in black removed. She cracked me with her cane and told me she needed to speak to Superman."
"The Woman in Black," they both said in unison.
As the doors opened they looked around to find only Jake from Security coming back in through the revolving doors.
"This damned job gets loonier every day," he muttered. "I ought to ask for hazardous duty pay."
As Lois and Clark approached him he looked up with a scowl.
"Before you ask, I don't know where that member of the Gray Panther's hit squad went."
"How did you know we were looking for her?" Lois asked.
"Ms. Lane, I've been with the Planet for a long time and one thing is certain. If there's trouble anywhere in Metropolis you and Mr. Kent are involved in it," Jake said tiredly as he rubbed his shoulder. "You know, for an old lady she packed quite a punch with that cane."
"You mean she hit you, too?" Clark asked incredulously.
"Yep, told me she was the owner of the Planet and that I'd better find Superman if I knew what was good for me. Anyway, after a few minutes she calmed down and then pulled a notepad out of her purse and started scribbling like crazy."
"Then she left?"
"Yeah, but not before she gave me this," Jake said as he fished an envelope out of his pocket and handed it to Lois.
Lois took the envelope and opened it with some apprehension. She scanned the enclosed document quickly and put it back in the envelope.
"Well? What does it say?" Clark asked.
Lois looked a little pale. "I can't tell you right now, but we have to talk to this woman. Right now. We know where she is, so let's go."
Clark frowned. "Honey, are you all right? Why can't you tell me now?"
Lois sighed and wrapped her arms around his waist, burrowing into him for comfort. "You'll find out when we meet with Ms. Santos…and you need to be there as Superman."
Clark's eyebrows rose. "As Superman? But why?"
"Claaark. I don't need questions right now. Are you coming or what?"
"I'm sorry, honey. Of course I'm coming with you." He hugged her close for a moment. "Should we drive or take Superman express?"
Lois managed a chuckle. "Drive, I guess. We need to meet Ms. Santos at her hideaway, and she needs time to get there."
Clark was puzzled. "Why can't we just catch up to her now?"
"You'll see," was the only answer he got.
Lois parked the Jeep outside Santos Ltd., and was joined by Superman who landed softly next to the car.
"Yes. Let's' go."
Lois looked in both directions, and tried the entry door.
Clark tried the door. "Open," he said, and gave a slight twist of his wrist.
Lois shook her head. "All those years I slaved away picking the locks while you just stood there."
Clark cleared his throat, a tactic that saved his neck when he was tempted to laugh. He closed the door behind them and
Lois gasped. "Wow."
"It's like a Lex 'going out of business' sale," Clark said, examining portraits that were clearly Lex Luthor, but in costuming that went back to at least the mid nineteenth century.
"A rogues' gallery, but the same rogue repeated over and over," Lois commented and handed the envelope to Clark.
Clark opened the envelope and read aloud. "Ms. Lane, find Superman, have him look at what I have in the warehouse at Hobs Bay. I need a witness who will be trusted at his word, and that would be Superman. Then come with him to my apartment at 6322 Front Street." Clark sighed and turned over the paper. "The key to Santos Ltd. is above the door frame."
Lois shrugged. "I don't read the back of Hallmark cards either, if it makes you feel better."
Clark laughed and put the note back in the envelope. "Why does she want me to witness this? Portraits of Lex in costumes?"
Lois pulled a yellowed document from her purse. "This was in the envelope too."
"A marriage certificate from … oh come on, honey, she can't be serious."
"Clark," Lois said, getting that zero-to-frantic tone. "What if she is? I mean you even said we had no way of knowing how old Lex really was when we thought Leslie was his son."
Clark shook his head. "Honey, I know that, but I was thinking maybe he could have had plastic surgery — have been 60, but not 160!"
Lois pulled on his cape. "Let's get to Front Street and find out."
"All right," Clark said, that air of resignation in his tone.
An old woman opened the door for them. There was a distinctive disharmonious smell in the small apartment.
"Cats," Clark whispered.
"Lots of them," Lois agreed.
The old woman spit something black into a lima bean can she carried with her. "Snuff," she said. "A lady's tobacco. Would you like a pinch, Ms. Lane?"
Lois paled, watching a bit of black spittle move down the woman's chin. "No thank you. I'm not a lady … or so they tell me."
She shrugged and turned. "'At's not what Ms. Gloria tol' me." She blew her nose in a handkerchief and turned back to them.
"Yes. She said…ah…what was it?" The old woman started muttering under her breath, and finally pulled out a piece of paper. "Oh, yes, she wants to meet you in Lex's old apartment with Judge Emerson. Says it's the only way she can trust the old fart to own up to knowing her."
Lois blinked in surprise. "What does the judge have to do with this?"
Lois' question was met with a shrug. "Dunno. She said to meet there. Oh, and…" She opened the piece of paper, and took out a small key. "…to take this. If she doesn't show, it'll open a safe deposit box. The judge can get the matching key."
"Thank you, Miss.." Clark spoke finally, guiding Lois towards the door.
"Ward, Emily Ward." She beamed up at Superman. "I'm so glad I could help."
The wake of Superman's departure swirled the old woman's skirts up around her, revealing the black silk pant legs beneath. As the two disappeared from sight, her back straightened and her face composed itself into serenity. "You can come out now, Emily." Her gaze never wavered from the blue sky above. "It's nice to know I still haven't lost the touch."
Clark turned back to the now-closed door, frowning.
Lois stopped and caught his look. "What is it?"
Clark shook his head and fell into step with Lois. "Nothing. I thought I heard …" He shook his head once more. "Nah."
As they turned the corner, Clark scooped Lois into his arms. "I thought for a minute there I heard laughter … the kind you'd hear in one of those horror flicks."
Lois smiled and wrapped her arms around his neck as he began to lift off the ground. "Laughter? Wild, maniacal laughter? Like you'd hear from a mad scientist? Or someone on the edge of sanity?"
Clark grinned sheepishly, flying in the direction of downtown Metropolis. "Crazy, isn't it?"
Lois returned his grin. "Like a fox. This whole situation has been a little on the crazy side." She sighed and relaxed into his arms, enjoying the feel of the wind against her face and the sense of utter contentment that came over her as they flew above the rooftops.
She let her thoughts wander. "Clark?"
"Did any of us really know Lex Luthor? I mean, I was going to marry him …" She felt his grip tighten on her waist. "Sorry. Sore subject, I know. He was married, he had sons … and now this." She shivered suddenly, pulling a little closer to Clark for warmth. "I'm glad he's dead." The confidence in her voice belied the small glimmer of doubt she had in her mind.
Clark's smile faded as he listened to Lois voice her questions. He had the same ones. And like his wife, he had some doubt about how dead Lex Luthor was. He turned and looked into her face. He saw her uncertainty reflected in her eyes. And yet …
Looking deeper into her eyes, he saw something that returned the smile to his face. He saw Lois' steely grit and determination. He saw her absolute confidence in him … and in *them.* He saw their love for one another reflected back to him and he drew strength from their bond. Once and for all, they would find out why Lex Luthor was entering their lives from beyond the grave. And they would put any remaining doubts to rest.
"Me too," he whispered, leaning his face toward her and placing a soft, gentle kiss on her lips, reminding them both how far they had come in their relationship and how strong they were together.
Clark placed Lois' feet gently on balcony. They both walked to the glass door and stopped.
"Clark, remember the night of the auction for a date with Superman? I saw you standing right over there and felt as if I had lost my one chance at happiness. I was as low as a woman in love could get and trying to drown my sorrows with champagne. Then you were gone as Superman but in a wink of an eye at my side as Clark. Full of understanding and compassion. That's what I remember when I stand here."
"You don't have any feelings about this being the place where he asked you to marry him?"
"This is place where I almost got a chance to be with Superman and my partner came to rescue me from my own valley of self-pity."
Superman pulled her away from the glass and moved her behind the tall potted shrub. "Whatever you find out about Lex in there, remember I am here and I love you." His lips lowered to hers in a lingering kiss.
"Clark, there is nothing in there or out here that will keep me from loving you." She placed his hand on her heart. "You are here now and forever. Lex never was."
She kissed him quickly and with a nod of the head motioned they should move on.
They both moved through the glass door and were surprised at what they saw.
The huge room was empty, except for a small table sitting in the middle of it with a telephone on it. They walked to the table and lying beside the telephone was piece of stationery identical to the letter Lois received earlier. On it was a phone number.
And a message for Ms. Lane: Call this number.
"I don't like this one *bit*," Lois said angrily. "This is turning into a wild goose chase. I thought Judge Emerson was supposed to meet us here."
"Well, maybe he's in another room — "Clark said as he scanned the apartment with his X-ray vision. "Uh-oh," he muttered.
"What is it what did you see? Did you find him?"
"Yes, he's in the dining room."
"What's he doing in there?"
"What do you mean, nothing? How dare he keep us cooling our heels in here? I don't care if he is the chief judge of the Superior Court, I'm going to give him a piece of my mind," Lois replied as she stormed out of the room.
Clark dashed ahead of her at superspeed and blocked the doorway. "Honey, you don't understand. "
"Clark, what is it?" Lois said as she stood on tiptoes and tried to peer over his shoulder into the other room.
Clark sighed. "Judge Emerson is dead, Lois, and he has been for quite some time. I think we'd better call the police."
Lois started toward the phone, but Clark held up his hand. "Wait a minute. He has a piece of paper in his hand. I think we need to see that before the police arrive." He held out his hand. "Do you have a Kleenex in your purse? We don't want to leave fingerprints."
Lois sighed. "Why do you always think I have everything in my purse?" Nevertheless she produced a Kleenex which Clark used to open the door.
They approached the body, and Clark scanned the paper at superspeed. "It's addressed to us…you and Superman, I mean."
"Well? What does it say?"
"It says we should go back to Santos, Ltd., and all our questions will be answered."
Lois groaned. "Why do I feel like this is just another wild goose chase, and what the heck does the judge have to do with Lex?"
"I guess we'll just have to go back there to find out," Clark sighed.
Lois ground her teeth. "Okay, but this is the last time. If we find another note, Ms. Santos can rot in hell for all I care."
Clark scooped Lois up and carried her out to the balcony. " Okay, honey. I'm getting a little fed up with this myself."
This time, Ms. Santos opened the door looking the way she had at the courthouse.
"Ah. Mr. and Mrs. Kent. I've been expecting you."
Lois and Clark looked at each other in shock. Clark looked down at himself, checking. Yep. He *was* wearing the suit.
"Please, don't concern yourself," the old woman said. "Come in."
Clark and Lois exchanged glances. "Maybe we should just buy a billboard in Times Square and be done with it," Lois finally exploded. "I'm tired of being nickel-and-dimed to death by just one more person who knows the secret."
"I'm serious, Clark. Think about it, let's just buy air time on LNN and just—" Lois stopped her tirade at the sound of Lex Luthor's voice.
"… and you, my dear Gloria, have the best secret I can give you. Yes," Lex's voice continued. "I know you're alive, I know you're out there somewhere, and that someone is keeping that secret from me."
Gloria reached to the reel-to-reel recorder and switched off the machine.
"My dear husband," Gloria said and indicated the recorder. "I was sent this shortly before his *second* death. It seems he felt your secret, Mr. Kent, was worth a lot of money, and favors."
Clark swallowed. "It would only be an end to our privacy, Mrs. Santos … Luthor?"
"As I said, you needn't concern yourself. Alexan … Lex could not comprehend those who were not like him, but he never stopped trying to rebuild them into his image."
Lois folded her arms. "Like his wife?"
The old woman smiled faintly. "Yes. I loved Alexander, or perhaps just admired his power and what I thought was an altruistic man."
Lois closed her eyes a moment and bit her lip. How like the old woman Lois herself had sounded, justifying almost marrying a man she neither knew or loved.
"We were married during the Depression, and Alexander built an empire on the wreckage and ruin of others. I could not reach his heart, and only belatedly discovered he had none to reach."
"I'm lost," Clark said and moved closer to Lois, as if Gloria had pulled the warmth from the air. "We were told to come here .. by you?"
"Yes, by me. I have something that you might take to a laboratory to have tested. Alexander needed it to stay alive," she said as she moved slowly across the room to a rolltop desk. "This," she said almost triumphantly, as she produced a vial of clear liquid.
Lois took the vial. "I'm guessing this isn't insulin," she said and glanced up at Clark.
"No, it's a tribute to Lex's shortsightedness," she laughed softly. "It seems Lex was born quite a long time ago."
"How long?" Lois asked, her voice regaining its 'mad dog' tone.
The old woman shrugged. "I don't know, but I believe he would have been twice dead of old age before I met him, if not for this."
She gestured to the array of paintings behind her.
"Most of these were commissioned during my lifetime, or just before. I've spent the last decade or so tracking them down and attempting to document his life. I suppose that is how I came to his attention." Her smile faded.
"But I am an old woman, and while Lex might have been angry with me years ago for faking my death to escape him, he has moved on to younger and more beautiful objects of desire."
She tapped her cane against the ground. "Now, back to business. Did you you get the key from Emerson?"
Clark folded his arms across his chest. "Judge Emerson is dead."
The color bleached from the parchment of her skin. "Dead?" She leaned on her cane for support. "Oh dear."
She glanced around herself. "You would be the death of me after all, Lex." She shook her head.
She shook her cane at Clark. "You keep that key, and if Emerson's key ever turns up, send me word." She pulled out a card and handed it to Lois. "I am going to die again."
She winked at Lois. "Of all of Lex's fiancees and lovers and wives- I liked you best."
Lois stared at her computer screen. "How are we supposed to report on this, Clark? Luthor had a wife older than the Titanic who died over fifty years ago, only she really didn't, but now she's died again…"
"In another plane crash…"
"Couldn't she come up with something original? Drowned in her bathtub or something?"
"Judge Emerson was supposed to know her, but he's dead, and Emily Ward did know her, but she can't remember anything past last week!"
"At least we got Emily into a good care facility…"
"And now, Luthor, who's supposed to be older than dirt thanks to a formula even STAR Labs can't figure out…"
"Lois, they haven't had a chance to…"
And we can't even be sure that Lex is going to stay dead!"
"Lois!" Clark swiveled her chair towards him. "Stop it." He reached up to cup her cheek, and erased the tear tracing down her face with his thumb. "Lex can't threaten us, no matter how long he has lived or will live.
He leaned forward and kissed her forehead. "We have one thing that Lex will never have."
Lois looked up at him, awed for the millionth time at his gentleness. "What?"
Clark smiled as he quoted, "'This is true love. Do you think this happens every day?'"
Lois smiled up at him and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Yes. Every day, every hour, every minute I spend with you."
Their lips touched tenderly as they lost themselves in one of the top ten kisses of all time. However, since a kiss of that caliber is better enjoyed than described, let us say:
To be continued …
PART II: On An Island With You
Clark let the phone slip from his hand to rest on the cradle with a soft click. The patented Lane radar made Lois glance up from her own phone conversation and raise her eyebrows in an unspoken question.
Clark shook his head ruefully and shrugged. He leaned back and waited for Lois to dispose of her caller.
"Hey, CK?" Jimmy leaned over the partition by Clark's desk.
"What's up, Jimmy?"
"You said you wanted to know what the results of Judge Emerson's autopsy were?"
"Have they come in already?" Clark was surprised. The coroner he'd spoken with earlier had mentioned tomorrow at the soonest.
"No, and they aren't going to." Jimmy paused for effect. "Emerson's body has disappeared."
"What?" Jimmy jumped as Lois stalked up behind him. "Disappeared? How could it have disappeared?" Lois' whipcrack sarcasm took over her voice. "Is the morgue losing bodies now? Are they falling through the cracks like pennies? This is just like…oh, God."
Lois sat suddenly, grabbing Clark's desk for support as her face drained of color. "Clark- Lex's body disappeared too." She swallowed. "The first time."
Jimmy backed off a step, uncertain of a reception to any sympathy from his direction.
Clark pulled Lois into his arms, unmindful of the speed at which he'd reached her side. "It's not the same, honey. The morgue has lost a half a dozen bodies in the past three years." He kissed the tip of her ear. "And none of them came back from the dead."
Lois sighed. "'Organs R Us'. But I thought we put that body-snatching bunch in jail."
"We did, honey. And we'll do the same to whoever did this, too."
Lois' smile returned and she looked up into Clark's eyes. "And get a Kerth out of it, this time."
"You bet." He bent to kiss her.
"So what did Doctor Klein have to say?" Lois pulled back as his lips brushed her cheek. She smiled apologetically.
"Nothing yet. But he did want to show us something."
Lois loosened Clark's tie. "Then let's go take a look."
"Okay," he smiled, and then shouted back over his shoulder, "Jimmy, compile a list of bodies reported missing or stolen from the morgue in the last four years."
"You got it!" Jimmy said, and then lowered his voice. "Nothing but glamor for me in this job."
"See it?" Klein asked, a huge smile on his face.
Lois pulled up from the microscope. "The only thing I remember from high school chemistry is how to put mascara on the lens cups of the microscope to give out black eyes."
Klein sighed. "Your mother must have been in my class."
"Dr. Klein—" Clark prompted. "What is it we're supposed to see?"
"The chain of molecules — very unusual, but also natural."
"Ah," Lois nodded. "It's not man-made, so that means … I have absolutely no idea."
Klein leaned on the counter. "Nothing, by itself, but the properties of this tonic, or elixir, is that it 'preserves' tissue. Prolongs its life."
"The fountain of youth?" Clark asked, and glanced at Lois.
"No, it doesn't have regenerative, or rejuvenating qualities, but does *stop* the aging process."
"So someone taking this tonic when they're, say twenty-five years old—"
"Would remain twenty-five years old for a very long time," Klein said wistfully. "However, it's not a finite property, or cumulative."
Lois smiled. "To stay twenty-five would mean having to take the tonic repeatedly."
Klein nodded. "How often, though, hard to tell. We're still running tests."
Clark sighed. "Okay, thanks, Dr. Klein. If we find out anything else—"
"I have a plan," Klein interrupted, his face slightly flushed with excitement. "I've always wanted to say that."
Lois lowered her face, tempted to snicker. Clark made certain not to look at her, or he'd be a goner too.
"A plan, Dr. Klein?"
"Yes, to find the source of this tonic."
"All I need is the result of the autopsy, and I can —"
"Um, Dr. Klein," Clark interrupted. "There's a slight problem with that. The body has been stolen."
"What?? Darn. I come up with a brilliant idea, and the body gets stolen. Isn't that just my luck? This reminds me of that promising research I had going on male birth control, but one of the lab chimps —"
Lois put her arm around him and patted him on the back.
"There, there, Doctor. We'll find the body." She turned to glare at Clark. "Won't we?"
Clark looked a bit taken aback. "We will?"
"Of course we will, and you-know-who is going to help."
Lois gave Dr. Klein one last pat. "C'mon, Clark. Lets get started."
As they left, Dr. Klein took a swig from the nearest beaker and sighed morosely.
Lois pulled into the parking lot of the morgue with a screech of tires.
"Just what do you expect me to find, Lois?" Clark asked as he followed her through the door.
"I don't know, but you might be able to spot something using your vision gizmo."
Clark winced. "I wish you wouldn't call it that, but okay. I'll try."
"Charlie, are you here?" Lois yelled out, as she and Clark entered the body storage area in the morgue.
A small owl-like man suddenly appeared from one of the darkened corners of the room.
"Shssh, not so loud," he admonished.
"Well it's not like we're going to disturb anybody."
The little man raised one eyebrow "I try to keep a quiet and refined atmosphere for my guests."
"Right, Charlie, whatever you say," Clark replied in a soft, almost reverential voice.
"Thank you, Mr. Kent. I knew *you'd* understand," Charlie replied with a cutting glance in Lois's direction. "How can I help you?"
"We'd like to see the slab where they had Judge Emerson's body." Lois said.
Charlie sighed. "Oh dear, I was afraid of that. I'm so embarassed. I've never had one of my guests stolen before. It's happened to others, but never to me."
"Well, there's a first time for everything, Charlie."
Charlie shrugged and pulled out a large drawer. "This was it," he replied. "But I don't think you'll find anything. The police went over it with a fine tooth comb."
Clark quickly scanned the slab and the drawer with his x-ray vision. "Nothing," he mumbled to Lois.
"I told you so," Charlie said smugly.
"Wait a minute. Are Judge Emerson's personal effects still here?" Lois demanded
"Yes, they're up in the safe. Why?"
"We want to see them," Lois replied.
"We do?" Clark asked.
"Sure. There might be a clue there."
"I don't know… that would be very irregular," Charlie said hesitantly.
"Charlie, how would you like the management here to know about the floating crap game you run in the back every Thursday night?"
"You know about that! How?!"
Lois shrugged. "I know guys who know guys."
Clark grinned in admiration. "It's a losing battle, Charlie. Nothing stops Mad Dog Lane when she's on the track of a story."
"Fifty dollars, two credit cards and assorted keys. Not exactly what you'd expect to find in the pockets of the Chief Judge of Metropolis."
Clark half-smiled. "True enough." His gaze focused on the late judge's key ring. "However …" His voice trailed off as he reached for the keys.
Lois' gaze followed his hand and watched as he separated one key from the rest.
"Ta dah!" Clark announced.
Lois smiled as she reached into her case, pulled out her own keyring, and singled out a key. Handing it over to Clark, her smile widened as he placed one over the other.
"Mmm hmm," Clark agreed. "But keys to where?"
Lois had a thought. "That phone number …" She frowned as she tried to remember.
"On the table. In the other room. Remember?"
Clark looked off into the distance, picturing the layout of the room from a few days ago. Closing his eyes, he concentrated. "On the table … before we found the judge's body …"
His eyes opened. "555-1247."
Lois smiled as she reached for the wall phone. "You are good."
"It helps to have super-recall."
Lois dialed the number and listened for a moment before hanging up. "New Troy Bank. The Hobb's Bay branch."
Clark smiled. "What are we waiting for?"
They waited for the branch manager to leave the room before they turned their attention to the safety deposit box. Lowering his glasses, Clark concentrated on the metal box.
"Any booby traps?" Lois whispered.
Clark shook his head. "None." He turned to Lois. "Why are you whispering?"
She shrugged her shoulders and spoke at a more normal volume. "Don't know. Just seemed like the thing to do. Like whispering in church." She reached for the lid of the box. "Let's see what secrets Judge Emerson had."
Opening the box, Lois exchanged a look of confusion and curiosity with Clark.
"No hidden stash of money. No bearer bonds. Nothing. Except for this …" She lifted the folded paper out of the box carefully, the musty smell and yellowed edges indicating the paper's age.
Pushing the metal box to the side, Lois gingerly unfolded the paper, laying it out on the table. She studied it for a moment. "Clark? It's a —"
"Map. I can see that. An old one at that."
"Clark. Look at the area that's circled."
Clark looked where Lois had indicated. "Caribbean … off the coast of Florida …" He remembered his geography. Turning to look at his wife, his eyes showed his surprise. "The Bermuda Triangle?"
Lois nodded. "Looks like we need to check with Perry about taking a little trip."
"San Roberto? Great shades of Elvis! I need you covering the LexCorp trials, not haring off on some wild goose chase!" Perry matched Lois glare for glare.
Perry looked sharply at Clark, then nodded curtly. "Fine. You've got three days in San Roberto. Then I want you back here, no matter what."
"But, Chief, this is connected! And the trials are suspended until they can find a replacement for Emerson whose body disappeared before they could do the autopsy that Klein needs to pinpoint the source of that liquid we found that might be connected to Lex Luthor who started the whole mess with LexCorp in the first place!" Lois finally stopped for a breath.
Perry stared her down, trying to find where in that sequence there existed justification for a story.
"Chief, we think this map is connected to Judge Emerson's death."
Perry looked sharply at Clark, then nodded curtly. "Fine. You've got three days in San Roberto. Then I want you back here, no matter what."
"This is getting better every minute!" Lois whispered excitedly to Clark as soon as they were out of Perry's office and his earshot.
"Why's that, honey?" Clark asked, reaching for the phone. He wanted to talk to Doctor Klein before they left.
"Because …" Her voice dropped to a husky whisper. "we take half a day to find the Fountain of Youth, and then we have two and a half days …just you, me and a sandy beach." She trailed one finger down Clark's spine. "No ex-wives, no dead judges, no Lex." She tried to keep the hard edge from her voice, but it crept in on the last two words.
"Sweetheart." Clark let the phone call wait. He turned, cupped her cheek in one hand, and captured her eyes with his. "If you wanted to get off the villain-of-the-week's hit list, all you had to do was send back the postcard."
Lois stared at him for a long moment, fighting back a smile. She tried to force down the edges of her mouth curving up, but failed miserably. "Clark…" She finally strangled out.
He pulled her into his arms. "One fountain of youth, coming up. And then we can ignore the rest of the world. No ex-wives, no ex-judges, no ex-Lexes." His lips touched her ear, and his voice was a mere murmur. "Just you and me."
Lois sighed and closed her eyes. Suddenly, San Roberto seemed so close.
Clark began to dial Klein's number. "You start packing," he said, pressing his forehead to hers. "And when we get to the island, I'll show you everything I wanted to show you in Hawaii."
Lois grinned wickedly. "If there's more than you showed me on the ceiling, I may not survive."
"Trust me," he whispered, "you ain't seen nothing yet. There's this technique I witnessed in the Pacific involving scented oils.. uh .. Dr. Klein, didn't notice you picked up," Clark said, and cleared his throat.
Lois buried her face against Clark's chest, smothering her laugh.
She signaled that she was leaving and smiled at Clark as he blushed but nodded his acknowledgment. Lois had just gotten to the elevators when Jimmy rushed up.
"Is this cool or what?" he said breathlessly.
Lois, still on a romantic high, glanced at Jimmy. She'd miss him — a little — the next three days. "Okay, Jimmy, I'll bite. What's so 'cool'?"
"I'm the photographer on the Bermuda Triangle assignment!"
Lois slumped against the elevator door. "The *what*?"
"No, no," Lois said. "I can work a camera."
"Not *this* camera, Lois. It's state of the art, digital focus, panchromatic and Kodachrome dual SLR. Is that too much?!"
"Way too much," she sighed as the elevator door opened, causing her to fall backward.
Jimmy grabbed her arm. "No more taking black and white for contrast and then switching to the slide camera. This will do both at the same time."
"Jimmy, look," Lois said, hoping that sentiment and friendship would do what reason had failed to accomplish. "Clark and I are going to San Roberto. A beautiful, *romantic* place, and we'd like to be —"
Clark appeared suddenly behind Jimmy. "Dr. Klein is joining us," he said flatly, but with a hint of terror in his eyes.
"Cool, CK, it's a party!" Jimmy said, hopping into the elevator. "Meet you guys at the airport in an hour!"
Clark grabbed the door. "Jimmy, Superman will be flying me and Lois. We have some boring business to work out there first."
Jimmy continued beaming. "Okay, we'll meet you there!" The door slid shut.
Lois leaned against her husband. The couple mirrored each other. They both looked as though they'd missed the lottery by one number. Well, two superfluous numbers.
"Thanks for the Superman lift at least, Clark."
He curled his arm around her and kissed her temple. "It'll give us a few hours alone, honey."
"I guess," she pouted. "But I was looking forward to … you *witnessed* a technique?"
Clark was still blushing as he floated them down to a landing on a deserted silvery beach. Lois had insisted that he describe in detail the ritual he had witnessed.
Clark flopped down on the bed in their hotel room with a contented smile as Lois headed into the bathroom.
"Geez, Clark, making love on the beach is wonderful, but I have sand in a lot of unmentionable places. I'm going to take a shower."
Clark grinned. "Okay, honey. I'll call and see if Jimmy and Dr. Klein have arrived yet."
Before he could pick up the phone, someone pounded on the door. "CK. Lois. Are you there?"
Clark sighed and went to answer the door. Jimmy burst in.
"Wow. This place is really great. When do we get started? I can't wait to start taking pictures."
"Where's Dr. Klein?"
"I dunno. He mumbled something about checking out an idea he had. I haven't seen him for an hour or so. By the way, where were you guys?"
"We were …we were —" Clark replied hesitantly
"We were doing a little *exploring*," Lois yelled from the bathroom.
"Oh, okay," Jimmy replied. He turned and started to head out the door and then stopped. "Gosh, I almost forgot," he said as he slapped his forehead, "I brought that research you wanted, CK."
"What research?" Lois asked as she exited the bathroom wearing a large fluffy bathrobe and with her hair wrapped in a towel.
"I asked Jimmy to go through the Planet's archives looking for any information he could find about Judge Emerson or the Emerson family."
Lois smiled approvingly. "Good idea. What did you find, Jimmy?"
<Eraygun> Jimmy pulled a large manila folder out of his camera bag. "Not a whole lot on Judge Emerson. Mostly stories from a few years ago when they were trying to remove him from the bench for eccentric and erratic behavior. But, boy, has his family been in Metropolis a *long* time and the funny thing about it is there sure is a strong family resemblance. Take a look."
Lois and Clark examined the series of photographs. Judging by the changing styles of dress of the individuals in the pictures it was clear that they spanned several eras. There were even some daguerreotypes.
But one thing, or rather one person, stood out. Judge Emerson or someone who looked remarkably like him was in each and every one.
"Yikes," Lois and Clark said in unison.
"Honey, you get dressed. I think Jimmy and I need to find Dr. Klein *now*."
The docks smelled like any dock area the world over, fish and salt and just a hint of crude oil. The huge cargo ships and their giant cranes were hidden by the ridge of the breakwater, but the clatter and hum of noise wasn't dimmed by the barrier. A forest of masts lay placidly on the water, broken by the occasional spire of electronic arrays jutting off a cabin cruiser.
A few people could be seen, packing sails, catching some sun off the backs of their boats, arguing with Doctor Klein.
The lock on the chain link cage separating the slips from the rest of the dock area was dealt with quickly by Lois, after a small skirmish with Jimmy. Jimmy palmed his lockpick and followed Lois and Clark to the deck of the 'Stellar Pride'.
"I still say that dolphins are a far sight more intelligent than chimps, and much better suited for intelligence quotient studies than…" The tall, wiry man on the ship's deck crossed his arms over his chest and stared down at Doctor Klein.
Klein craned his neck upwards, feet firmly planted on the dock. "There's no question they're more intelligent, but they don't have hands! They can't use tools…"
"Doctor Klein?" Clark ventured,
"Oh, sorry." Klein wasn't. "This is my roommate from college, Graham Koltai. He's a marine biologist, studying dolphins in the area, and he's agreed to take us to your island."
Dr. Koltai exchanged greetings with Lois, Clark, and Jimmy. "My pleasure. I have to admit, when Bernard here told me where you wanted to go, I was a bit surprised."
"Really? How so?" Lois asked.
Dr. Koltai turned his attention to Lois. "It's just that there's not much to that particular island, Ms. Lane. And no amenities whatsoever."
Jimmy looked from Lois to Dr. Koltai. "You mean, it's deserted?"
"Cool. A deserted island in the Bermuda Triangle."
Lois bit her lower lip as she saw the two scientists cringe at Jimmy's enthusiasm. "Jimmy, I'm sure Dr. Klein and Dr. Koltai refer to the Bermuda Triangle as something more … scientific."
Dr. Klein shook his head. "Actually, Lois, we call it the 'Bermuda Triangle.' Don't we Graham?"
"Yes. It's that improper usage of the term 'cool' that I was cringing at."
Dr. Koltai began to explain. "You see, the term 'cool' refers to temperature and not a term of …"
"Um, Dr. Koltai? Shouldn't we be going?" Clark interrupted. He smiled to himself, wondering if all scientists went off on tangents, or just those that knew Dr. Klein.
"My apologies. Shall we go?" He looked around the deck. "But, where are your tents? Your sleeping bags?"
Lois took a sidelong glance at Clark and smiled. He caught her look and winked. "That's all right, Dr. Koltai. Lois and I can 'rough it.' "
"Yes. I've been camping with Clark before."
Dr. Koltai nodded. "All right." He turned to Klein. "Bernard? I have a spare tent and a couple of sleeping bags for you and the young man."
"Thank you, Graham."
With that, everyone boarded the boat and set off for the island.
It was twilight by the time they arrived at the island so it was decided to set up camp and begin their explorations in the morning. Clark went off in search of some palm fronds while Lois began a fire.
He quickly returned and they began to set up their shelter. Occasionally, they looked over at Dr. Klein and Jimmy and chuckled at their attempts to set up the tent. Finally, Lois took pity on the two men and went over to help them.
"Leave it to a Girl Scout to do things the right way," she teasingly muttered.
Dr. Klein sighed and folded up the instructions that had come with the tent. "Unfortunately, Japanese was not a required language in my graduate studies."
Jimmy nodded his agreement. "Yeah. Even those 'assemble-it-yourself' furniture kits come with pictures."
Lois shook her head before turning to watch Clark walking toward them, a string of fish hanging from one hand and a bunch of bananas held in the other. Her smile widened as she remembered another time on another island.
"Dinner!" Clark announced. Winking at Lois, he added, "Good thing Dad taught me how to fish."
"Good thing," she replied, pitching her voice so only Clark could hear the huskiness in her tone. They locked gazes for a moment, lost in island memories.
"Excellent, Clark. Bring those fish over here."
Dr. Klein's voice startled them both back to the present.
"I'm not to skilled at fishing," he said, taking the string from Clark. "But dissecting has given me a talent for filleting."
"A man of many talents," Lois cajoled and patted Klein's shoulder.
"Thank you, Lois," he smiled. "I'm pretty good at doing my own sewing too, though after getting out of clinical work, I'm a little rusty."
"Well," Lois sighed. "I guess I can do the frying."
"No! .. uh, I mean, honey, it's kind of a male bonding thing … guys do the cooking on campouts, and women .. um … stand watch."
Lois folded her arms. "And the hunter-frycooks provide women with M-16s?"
Jimmy and Klein exchanged bemused looks. "Listen," Klein interrupted. "You two take a walk in the moonlight. I can teach Jimmy to filet, and years being a bachelor has given me some survival skills as a cook."
"For real?" Jimmy asked. "The only survival skill it gives me is speed-dialing Dominos pizza."
Clark made the 'eyes' at Lois, the I-didn't-entirely-screw-up-and-if-I-did-I-didn't-mean-it eyes.
Lois shook her head. She loved him, what could she do? She laced her fingers with his. "C'mon, let's go banana spear fishing."
Clark laughed softly. "Okay," he said. "Thanks, Dr. Klein, Jimmy."
Klein looked after them as they left and sighed. "I wish things with Carolyn had worked out. Of course she was more your age than mine. When she talked about Smashing Pumpkins, I thought about weight differential experiments from various heights … and various melons of course."
Jimmy shook his head. "Man, you and me both, Doc. I dated a girl who never heard of Speed Racer, it just wasn't going to work."
Klein laughed as he placed the filets in a pan. "You're young yet, you'll find someone special."
Jimmy shrugged. "I guess, but when I see Lois and CK—"
"I know," Klein said. "Pretty special. Were they always like that? So much in love, I mean?"
Jimmy laughed and pushed back his hair. "Before they were two peas in a pod, they were two cats in a sack."
"Wow," Klein muttered. "You'd never know it."
"Lois had …" Jimmy paused and looked to make sure Lois and Clark were *really* gone. Satisfied, he continued. "She had this *huge* thing for Superman."
Klein dropped the spatula. "Oh, really?"
"Totally! I mean, she was so hung up on him, she couldn't think of anything else."
"Hmm, and she still seems very close to him .. uh .. in a 'friendly' way … very friendly way."
Klein picked up the spatula and idly wiped it on his pant leg. "You don't suppose she's … nah." He looked at the spatula as if it had jumped into his hand, and then turned back to poking at the fish.
"Banana spear fishing?" Clark pulled Lois to a stop as soon as they were out of earshot of the camp.
Lois giggled and glanced back at the small circle of flickering firelight. "Hey, it sounded good at the time." She twined her fingers around the fabric of his shirt and pulled him close. "Besides, I may just go fishing for your banana." She brushed her hips up against him and walked her finger tips up his chest. "Do you think I can find it?" She breathed.
Clark's throat froze, and he reached to haul her close to him. Lois twisted out of his grasp, dancing just out of reach. In the moonlight, her face was all shadows and shining eyes, and the silver light spilled over her slight form.
He breathed deeply, matching her grin with a sly one of his own. "Oh, I don't know…" He shuffled towards her one step, and she danced back across the sandy beach, just out of reach. "Us hunter-frycooks use big manly spears. No sissy bananas around here."
Lois giggled, and Clark stepped closer. "Wanna fondle my spear?" he leered, waggling his eyebrows at her.
Lois doubled over with laughter, and Clark swooped in and tossed her over his shoulder. He grunted. "Me big hunter-frycook! Catch good food! He pressed his lips against her thigh and nibbled. "Mmmm…taste good!"
Lois squirmed, helpless with laughter. "Clark! Put me down!" She managed to lever herself up, and glared down at him. "Put me down right now!" Her demand was spoiled by the giggle that burst out a second later.
Clark glanced up at her, winked and nibbled her thigh again, his lips travelling just to the edge of her shorts. He heard the breath catch in the back of her throat, and swung her down to rest in his arms.
Lois wrapped her arms around his throat. "My big…" She giggled breathlessly, "hunter-frycook…"
Clark glanced back at the circle of firelight, and around. A large rock outcropping shadowed a cozy nook, just out of human line of sight. He took his time walking across the sand, and nuzzling at Lois' delicious neck.
He set her on her feet in the shadow of the rock, and spent a long moment just looking into her eyes. She smiled up at him, still trying to catch her breath.
The unfamiliar sound intruded on their consciousness at the same time. "Clark? Is that water?"
Clark pulled his gaze away from Lois' face and focused intently for a moment. "Not just water, honey. A hot spring."
Lois smiled. "Mmm. A natural jacuzzi?"
She let Clark lead her through the trees. When they came to an opening, she fully expected to suggest a little dip in the water. The suggestion died on her lips as she saw Clark focusing his attention not on the hot spring itself, but on a spot just beyond the far edge. She released his hand and stood there as Clark made a beeline toward a huge bolder.
She walked toward him as he lifted the boulder and pulled something out from underneath it. "What's that?"
"I'm not sure. But it's been there a long time." He handed the newspaper wrapped package to Lois, leaning against the boulder he'd replaced.
Lois hefted the package in her hand. "Feels like a book of some sort." She noticed the date on the newspaper. "1935?" She pulled on the string and began to unwrap the package.
Clark watched Lois as the aged newspaper fell away to reveal a leather-bound book. Lois opened the pages and began to read aloud.
"… this is an incredible discovery! One that would certainly change everything that Lex and I have worked for …" Lois' voice trailed away as she continued to read silently.
Closing the book, she turned her gaze to Clark, her expression unreadable.
"Honey? What is it?"
In hushed tones, Lois explained. "This is Judge Emerson's journal, Clark. The entries start in the 1800's and the last was made in 1936. He and Lex …" She swallowed. "This hot spring is … a fountain of youth."
She tapped the cover of the journal. "It's all in here, Clark. The water from this spring has restorative powers of some sort. Remember Dr. Klein said that there was something in the water that he examined?"
Clark slowly nodded. "Something that would slow down the aging process …" He looked into Lois' eyes.
"… stabilize … and slow …" she repeated to herself. Turning her gaze back to Clark, she repeated her words. "Stabilize and slow … the water stabilizes and slows down the aging process."
A thought flashed through Clark's mind, one that he didn't realize he had, but one that Lois caught from the change in his expression.
"What?" she asked. "What did you just think?"
Clark turned away, shaking his head. "Nothing. It was … stupid."
Concerned, Lois clutched the journal to her and reached for him with her free hand. "Clark? What is it?"
At her touch, Clark turned back and sighed. "It's just …" He stepped toward her and placed his hand on the side of her face, feeling her soft skin against his. He sighed once more before continuing.
"It's just that … for a moment there … I thought that maybe *you* could drink some of the water from the hot spring …"
"… and live a 'long and happy life' with you?"
She smiled as Clark nodded, a half-smile on his face. "Yeah. A *long* and happy life. Together."
Her heart went out to him as she remembered their conversation on the steps after interviewing Dr. Doodson. She reached up and brushed a lock of hair back from Clark's forehead.
Keeping her hand in his hair, she whispered, "Believe me, Clark. I thought it too … for a moment." She smiled warmly as her eyes brightened with unshed tears. "But, as a wise man once said to me … 'It's not the years that count, it's the moments.'"
She brought her hand to the side of his head as Clark tried to turn away. "Clark … I love you for thinking that. But, part of what makes me who I am … an Earth woman … *is* growing old. I would *love* to grow old with you and live forever … but not at the loss of my humanity. Do you understand?"
His eyes met hers and his hand came up to brush away a tear that escaped from her bright eyes. "Yeah. I do … and I love you for who you are … an Earth woman … and my wife." He leaned toward her and placed a soft kiss on her lips.
They stayed like that for a moment, reveling in their love and closeness before breaking off the kiss and standing within each other's arms.
A thought came to Lois. "Besides … the long-term affects wouldn't be very pleasant. Look what happened to Lex … falling deeper and deeper into madness and insanity. No, Clark. I'm crazy enough as it is." She pulled her head back and looked up at him. "Crazy in love with you."
Clark smiled. "Then I'm certifiably insane."
They kissed once more. "Come on. Let's get back to Dr. Klein and Jimmy."
"Do we have to?"
Lois thought for a moment and smiled. "Well … I guess we can take a while longer …"
"My thoughts exactly." Clark pulled her into his arms once more, the journal dropping to the ground.
In the shadows, a figure turned away from the loving couple, slowly and quietly making its way toward the beach. The glimmer of a cane shone in the moonlight.
As the brush gave way to the beach, Gloria Santos looked down the beach and saw in the distance the campfire. Looking up into the evening stars, she whispered, "Looks like you've lost once more, Lex."
Satisfied that the secret of the hot spring was safe with Lois and Clark, she headed toward her waiting boat.
"I can't believe it!" Lois said angrily as she slammed the door on her way out of Perry's office.
"I can," Clark said matter-of-factly as he wrapped a consoling arm around Lois' waist and pulled her closer to him. "Honey. you should know by now that Perry isn't going to print a story without hard evidence to back it up, not even one of ours."
Lois sighed. "But we have hard evidence, or at least we had it before those government agents confiscated it all. They took the map, Judge Emerson's journal, the samples from the spring, even the film from Jimmy's camera!"
"Don't forgot Dr. Klein's notes and materials from Star Labs. Those guys in black were *real* thorough," Clark added with a wry grin. "I wouldn't be surprised if they had the culprits who stole Judge Emerson's body in custody before the end of the week."
Lois smiled in response "Yeah, where's that much maligned government inefficiency when you really need it."
Clark grinned and took Lois by the hand. He led her out of the newsroom and up the stairs to the Planet's roof. Once there he pulled her into a close embrace and they rocked together silently staring out at the city lights below.
After a few minutes Clark spoke. "To tell you the truth, sweetheart, I'm almost a little relieved that what we uncovered is in the hands of the authorities."
"I am, too, but I guess a part of me feels concerned — or maybe I should say uneasy…"
"Well, the prospect of some of our elected officials having immortality is almost as scary as Lex having it."
Clark laughed. "Considering the apparent side effects, I don't think we'll have to worry about that for a long, long time. But I think Superman will make a point of dropping by that particular island occasionally, if that will make you feel a little better."
"Actually," Lois replied, as she snuggled into Clark's chest. "I'm feeling pretty good right now."
Clark sighed a contented sigh. "It's times like this I can almost understand Lex Luthor."
Lois pulled away. "Clark, don't ever say that, not even as a joke."
Clark smiled and stroked her hair. "I simply meant that some things are worth living forever for."
"Oh, like …?"
He bent to kiss her and murmured his reply against her mouth. "Like this moment."